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Van Dyke defense: New judge should decide location for Laquan McDonald trial

Judge Vincent Gaughan presides over the Jason Van Dyke hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building in 2016 . (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune, Pool)

Lawyers for the Chicago police officer charged with murdering Laquan McDonald want a different judge to decide where the trial will take place, claiming that Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan has already decided to hold the trial in Cook County.

In a motion filed Wednesday, lawyers for Jason Van Dyke said that Gaughan –– who has presided over the case for more than two years –– tipped his hand last week, when he set the date for the trial for Sept. 5 before ruling on the defense’s 600-page motion for a change of venue.

“The court has already decided to deny the defendant’s motion and any further proceedings would be nothing more than a show, much like a professional wrestling match wherein the outcome has been pre-determined,” defense lawyer Daniel Herbert wrote.

The motion does not call for Gaughan to be replaced to hear the case.

Herbert and his team have not stated whether they will opt for a bench or jury trial.

Gaughan, in recent months, has shown growing impatience with the pace of Van Dyke’s case. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery in November 2015. In the October 2014 shooting, the veteran officer shot the 17-year-old McDonald 16 times as the teen appeared to be walking away from officers.

Van Dyke’s lawyers have said that public furor over the shooting and media attention around the case have made it impossible for Van Dyke to have a fair trial in Cook County.

Gaughan, who has presided over high-profile cases including the trials in the Brown’s Chicken Massacre and R&B singer R. Kelly’s child pornography case, had said in the spring that he hoped to see the case go to trial “this summer.”

In Wednesday’s motion, Van Dyke’s lawyers noted that Gaughan has complained about the length of time it has taken their California-based consultant to prepare a report on public opinion about the case in Cook and the collar counties, and that Gaughan has remarked on technology upgrades planned for his courtroom to accommodate the trial.

The next hearing on the case is set for Friday at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.